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Days of Reckoning, Part Three

Today, thanks to skepticism from those who think my position solidified over six years on this subject is because of predetermined bias rather than actual study, I'll switch from my original plan of doing use cases by "estimated level of commute interest" and instead hit what I would guess are the two best possible cases for the Red Line.

Since shuttle-buses are obviously a problem, and since even in the commute to UT (you know, the obvious primary destination for people riding transit in our area, that unimportant little spot) from the furthest out station in Leander, the speed of the train can't make up for the time lost to the shuttle-bus, let's try to assemble one of the few commutes that might not require a shuttle-bus, although that's relatively hard to do.

Frost Tower is just on the edge of the 1/4 mile circle that most transit planners view as the maximum distance people will walk to work from a transit stop. It's also the ONLY major office building within what's commonly considered acceptable walking distance from the 'downtown station'. (Me, I might actually have to take the shuttle even on that trip some days due to my feet, so I'll plan that out too). Let's run there from both Leander (far out park-and-ride) and Crestview (supposed TOD which will supposedly provide the only real walk-up traffic for Austin).

This case also benefits the Red Line disproportionately because both the express bus route from Leander to downtown and the #101 limited first run past UT, and then past the Capitol, then through the rest of downtown; so we're at the very end of the slowest part of that route here. IE, we've picked the destination that makes the bus look its absolute worst.

TripPickup at rail stationArrive downtown stationLeave downtown stationArrive FrostTotal travel time
#1L local bus from Crestview8:02 AMN/AN/A8:35 AM33 minutes
#101 express bus from Crestview8:18 AMN/AN/A8:43 AM25 minutes
Red Line with walk from station8:15 AM8:35 AM8:35 AM8:40 AM25 minutes
Red Line with #460 shuttlebus (first one)8:15 AM8:35 AM8:38 AM8:40 AM25 minutes
Red Line with #460 shuttlebus (second one)8:15 AM8:35 AM8:40 AM8:42 AM27 minutes

Shuttlebus travel times my estimate; only timepoint is much further down the route. No time advantage to taking the shuttle for the closest major office building. Note that I only had the walk from the train station be to the middle of the block between Congress and Brazos since you could presumably enter the building from the back. The buses drop off right in front.

Summary: Even from Crestview Station to Frost, there is no time advantage to taking the Red Line for the commuter. A slight advantage in reliability will probably, however. Ironically, although I doubt Rapid Bus will do much, it only has to save one minute over the limited service it replaces to make the Red Line lose this contest.

Now, from Leander:

TripPickup at rail stationArrive downtown stationLeave downtown stationArrive FrostTotal travel time
#983 express bus from Leander Station8:00 AM9:26 AM(*)9:26 AM9:31 AM91 minutes
Red Line with walk from station7:54 AM8:56 AM8:56 AM9:01 AM67 minutes
Red Line with #460 shuttlebus (first one)7:54 AM8:56 AM8:59 AM9:01 AM67 minutes
Red Line with #460 shuttlebus (second one)7:54 AM8:56 AM9:01 AM9:03 AM69 minutes

(* - express bus drops off on Guadalupe; 5 minute walk per google). Had to switch the rail trip later than before because the one used above doesn't start from Leander.

Guess what? This meets my expectations as shown in this old post. Despite Capital Metro's ridiculous claims that this line serves Austin and even "central Austin", the only real beneficiaries of this service are those who live far enough out to be able to use the distant park-and-rides; a lot of whom are residents of Cedar Park and Round Rock, who don't even pay Capital Metro taxes. (I ran the Lakeline numbers quickly on a piece of paper and people boarding there can save about 20 minutes over the express bus, going to Frost; Round Rock residents driving to the Howard Lane P&R can hop the train now but no express bus service existed before; both of those two nominally 'Austin' park-and-rides are unlikely to serve many Austin residents as they are right on the edge of the city limits).

Out of time. Hope this mollifies the skeptics. Bet it won't.

This entry was posted in the following categories: Austin , Don't Hurt Us Mr. Krusee, We'll Do Whatever You Want , I Told You So , Republicans Hate Poor People , Republicans Hate Public Transportation , Republicans Hate The Environment , Transit in Austin , Transportation , Use Cases


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I live in Crestview and work downtown. My kids go to school downtown.

I've been wracking my brain trying to think of a reason to take the train over the bus. I'm not turning up much.

With bikes, it takes us fifteen minutes to get to the Crestview station. Add five to arrive early.

The 101 arrives to within one block of school in 22 minutes-ish. The train plus shuttle arrives to within one block of school in 25 minutes. Add in the 20 minutes, and both options are essentially the same amount of time. Respectively, they're 42 and 45 minutes, total.

The #5 picks up within one block of our house and thus requires no bikes. But, it's a 42 minute ride, plus the 5 minutes to arrive early.

A break down of the different options:

#5 - 47 minutes
+ No bikes to get there (plausible in bad weather situations)
+ One trip, no connections
+ Higher trip frequency
- Long trek on neighborhood roads makes for a rough ride

#101 - 42 minutes
+ Higher trip frequency
+ Bus ride is smoother
- Requires bike ride to get there (implausible in bad weather)

Train - 45 minutes
+ Excellent ride experience (for those 18 minutes)
+ Wifi
+ Take bikes onto train (maybe, depending on how full)
- Lower frequency
- Requires bike ride to get there (implausible in bad weather)
- Requires shuttle to get to final destination, or long walk, or bike ride
- 2x more expensive

The most depressing thing of all is that I can hop in my car at the door to my house and get to my kid's school, right at their dropoff location, in 20 minutes.

Why should I bother with mass transit that takes twice as long as my car, and is twice as annoying?

You shouldn't bother - nobody should; the transportation agencies should make sure to provide mass transit options that not only exist (first step most never get past thinking about) but are competitive enough to be attractive.

2000's light rail line would have been more attractive for many more central people - maybe for you, maybe not; but in aggregate MUCH better. Now we can never do it.

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